First Lithograph Political Cartoon Created in Texas
Sam Houston Pilloried
227. [HOUSTON, SAMUEL]. T[HIELEPAPE], W[ilhelm Carl August]. Sam Recruiting, after the injunction of secrecy had been removed | [pointing finger] These are his Principles [lower center] San Antonio, July 1855 [lower right] W.T. Lith. San Antonio, Texas. Lithograph on heavy paper. Image area: 49 x 41 cm; sheet size: 61 x 48.1 cm. Creased where formerly folded, small holes in blank corners and margins where previously tacked up, 3.5 x 2 cm void and 3 cm split on right edge (affecting a couple of letters), several other splits, chips, and small holes (mainly confined to blank margins, but a few affecting image), overall browning. Professionally washed, backed, and infilled. Very good condition. Exceedingly rare, especially given the brittle, poor quality paper on which it is printed.
First lithographed political cartoon created in Texas. This highly unusual print is part of a group of three lithographs, all the work of Thielepape, which are considered by some to be the first three lithographs created in Texas. In his unpublished manuscript on nineteenth-century Texas lithographs, in the section entitled “Introduction of Lithography in Texas,” Ron Tyler comments: “The first lithographs that can be documented as having been made in Texas appeared in San Antonio, the result of efforts by Adolf Douai, the editor of the San Antonio Zeitung, J. Martin Reidner, his partner, and Wilhelm C.A. Thielepape.” (The other possible candidate for first Texas lithograph is an early view of Austin in A.B. Lawrence’s Texas in 1840, which was published in New York in 1840 but credited Joshua Lowe of Galveston as the image’s lithographer; however, some believe this image may in fact be an engraving.) The three documented Thielepape lithographs pulled in Texas in 1855 are: (1) the present image of Sam Houston, dated in July 1855; (2) a letter sheet with a view of Alamo Plaza, undated but believed to be from 1855 (see Sloan Auction 21, Lot 242); and an undated map of San Antonio exhibited in the fall of 1855. Winkler, Check List of Texas Imprints 1846-1860 531 (incorrectly transcribing lithographer’s name as W.J. Leth.). The print and its makers are not mentioned by Peters, America on Stone. Ron Tyler locates copies at the Center for American History at the University of Texas and the Dallas Historical Society, and comments in his unpublished research:
A nineteenth-century Renaissance man, Thielepape (1814-1904), engineer, surveyor, and mayor of San Antonio, was born in Germany, where he studied and practiced engineering before settling in Indianola, Texas, in 1850. He later relocated to San Antonio in 1854, then spent his later years in Chicago in the building boom that followed the Great Fire. In addition to his surveying, engineering, and political work, Thielepape’s myriad activities spanned the fields of music, architecture (buildings he designed include the San Antonio Casino and Comal County Courthouse), teaching, photography, lithography, and journalism (he served as editor of an abolitionist newspaper). He was also the artist-engineer behind a traveling attraction called “Stereomonoscopic Dissolving Views & Polaroscopic Fire Works” (Indianola Courier, January 5, 1861, page 2, column 1).
A Union sympathizer, Thielepape helped raise the Union flag over the Alamo on July 21, 1865, served as Reconstruction mayor of San Antonio beginning November 8, 1867, and is thought to have spent part of the Civil War in Eagle Pass and Mexico. Houston’s politics clearly provoked bitter irritation in the German-born Thielepape, particularly his affiliation with the Know-Nothing Party, which discriminated against immigrants, advocating that foreign-born persons not be allowed to hold office and petitioning for requirements that would grant citizenship only once immigrants had lived in the United States for twenty-one years and had passed an intelligence test.
This lithograph appeared at a time when Sam Houston’s political career was in shambles. Shortly after this, Houston failed in his reelection bid for the U.S. Senate and in a run for the Texas governor’s office. The present caustic, derogatory image of Sam Houston is a world away from the customary heroic Houston to which we are accustomed and a prime example of acerbic German humor.
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Copyright Dorothy Sloan 2009